Tuesday, September 23, 2014


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Putin, Cameron Hold Syria Talks

British Prime Minister David Cameron (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin speak to the media in Sochi.
British Prime Minister David Cameron (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin speak to the media in Sochi.
By RFE/RL
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has discussed with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron possible options and joint measures for ending the conflict in Syria.

Putin, speaking after talks with Cameron in Sochi, said "practical steps" were discussed, without elaborating. But the Russian leader said Syria must preserve its independence and territorial integrity.

"We have a common interest in putting an immediate end to violence in that country and launching the peace settlement in preserving Syria as an integral and sovereign state," Putin said.

Cameron said both countries agree that they should actively assist in a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

"The [Russian] president and I have agreed that as permanent members of the UN, we must help drive this process, working with partners in the region and beyond, not just bringing the regime and opposition together at one negotiating table but Britain, Russia, America, and other countries helping shape a transitional government that all Syrians can trust to protect them," Cameron said.

Cameron added that Britain and Russia are concerned that violence and extremism could spill from Syria into the region.

"It's no secret that we have had different views on how best to handle the situation," Cameron said. "But we share fundamental aims to end the conflict, to stop Syria from fragmenting, to let the Syrian people choose who governs them and to prevent the growth of violent extremism."

Britain supports the Syrian rebels and wants to lift a European Union arms embargo, while Russia has been a longtime ally and arms supplier to the Syrian regime.

Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow had no new plans to sell an advanced air-defense system to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, but left open the possibility that it could ship such systems to Damascus under existing agreements.

"The Wall Street Journal" this week reported that Israel had informed Washington that a Russian deal was imminent to sell S-300 missile systems that would significantly boost Syria's ability to prevent outside intervention in its conflict.

"Russia does not plan to sell [air-defense systems]. Russia had already sold and signed contracts a long time ago and, according to the contracts, we are carrying out deliveries of military equipment which happen to be antiaircraft systems," Lavrov said after a trilateral meeting in Warsaw with his Polish and German counterparts Radek Sikorski and Guido Westerwelle. "This is not forbidden by any international laws. It is defensive equipment designed to provide Syria, the importing state, the ability to protect itself against air strikes which, as we know, is not such an unimaginable scenario. So my answer is very simple. Thank you very much."

Lavrov did not specify whether the equipment already being delivered were S-300 batteries or another system.

With reporting by Reuters, ITAR-TASS, Interfax, and AFP

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